The doctor: ‘People get better before your eyes’

Determined: Dr Shetye studied medicine at Leicester University.

What does it take to be a doctor? Dr Abhishek Shetye is training in a hospital. It’s hard work, but there’s nothing more rewarding than getting very sick patients back on their feet.

After five years at medical school and three years as a junior doctor, Dr Abhishek Shetye is getting into the swing of hospital life.

“When you just start out as a junior doctor, it’s a lot of day-to-day jobs, making sure everything runs efficiently,” he explains. “But you take a little bit more responsibility every year.”

Dr Shetye wants to train as a cardiologist (a heart doctor). Some of the people he sees are very sick.

“I’ve worked in intensive care departments where people came in who were really unwell, on breathing machines.” While this can be difficult, seeing people get better is the highlight of the job.

“I am fascinated by the inner workings of the human body. It’s satisfying to identify when things go wrong, and put plans in place to make people feel better in front of your eyes.”

But anyone considering a career as a doctor should be prepared to work hard.

“It involves a lot of long hours,” says Dr Shetye. Doctors are expected to regularly work evenings and weekends. The longest shifts are 12 hours, but he says that hospitals make sure their doctors aren’t overworked.

To deal with the pressure, Dr Shetye believes it is important to kick back and enjoy yourself outside of work. “Personally, I like to exercise and read some books.”

His advice to aspiring doctors is to start thinking about your career early — he certainly did. “Whenever we went to visit the doctor as a young kid, I would always be impressed with the cool procedures,” he recalls.

Nothing changed when he reached school. “I was always interested in science and biology, so it clicked,” he says. Many medical schools require Biology and Chemistry A levels.

When the time came to enter his application, Dr Shetye says that preparing well “made life a lot easier”. At interview, aspiring medics are usually asked to explain why they want to be a doctor over any other science career. They may also be asked questions about the NHS to show that they understand the UK healthcare system.

As for his time at medical school, he explains, “You have to consume a lot of knowledge in a short period of time but, once I got the hang of it, I had a great time. I made friends for life.“

What does it take to be a doctor?

The best medicine

“Most importantly, you need to be able to communicate,” says Dr Shetye. “Quite often, we’re trained to learn all this medical jargon about the human body. [But] it’s always better to use simple language so that the patient can understand what is wrong with them, and they can look after themselves based on that.”

“Dedication as well. We end up working quite a few long hours. You have to keep your end goal in mind when things get a bit stressful.”

You Decide

  1. What qualities does a good doctor need?
  2. Should doctors be paid more than footballers?

Activities

  1. Think of a time when a doctor made a positive difference to your health, or to the life of someone you know. Write a letter thanking them.
  2. In pairs, discuss the main health concerns for young people today. Compile a top five that you can agree on. Share your list with the rest of the class. Do you all agree on the most important health concern? If not, debate it.

Some People Say...

“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”

Hippocrates (460-370 BC), ancient Greek physician

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most medical degree courses in the UK are five years long. There are some exceptions: Oxford and Cambridge universities have six-year courses. The A level subjects most frequently required by medical schools are Biology and Chemistry, but requirements can vary. Aspiring doctors must also take an entrance exam for university, like the UKCAT or the BMAT.
What do we not know?
What the NHS will look like in 10 years’ time. In January, after years of concern about a crisis in the NHS, the Government unveiled £20 billion extra funding over 10 years. We do not yet know how this money will be spent, or if it will be as transformative as the Government claims.

Word Watch

Junior doctor
After graduating from medical school, doctors complete two foundation years training in a hospital. They then complete a two-year core medical training programme (that Dr Shetye is currently doing). Around this time, they start specialising in their chosen area of medicine.
Intensive care
A hospital unit where very seriously ill people, requiring close monitoring, are treated.
Medical schools
There are 33 medical schools in the UK.
Jargon
Specialist words used by a profession, or other group, that can be difficult for outsiders to understand.

Subjects